As I look out of my office window, the sun hits the patio with its cast aluminium garden furniture glistening in the sun. Just beyond the paving area is a huge flower bed resplendent with all sorts of varieties of hellebores which set the metal patio furniture off a treat at this time of year. I love hellebores in all their varieties but confess that I’ve always felt that their faded Victorian air is spoilt by the bright yellows of other spring flowers such as the ubiquitous daffodil. With a dim memory that hellebores are prone to reversion, coupled with a desire to free them from pernicious yellow bedfellows, I have resolved to move them about a bit.
To move or not?
A quick glance at the reference books confirms that yes; hellebores do not like to be moved when mature. Other people advise that you can move them with impunity if you chop them into large chunks or move the whole plant in one go.
I have a few really big clumps but figure that the smaller ones can be safely jiggled around a bit. I’m particularly fond of the white varieties and think they look better away from the pinky purple ones. Hellebores have shy blooms, which hang down, so for impact, try planting them on a slope or raised bed. Also bear in mind that the paler ones will stand out at a distance better than the darker varieties. Keep your deepest shades for planting near the metal outdoor furniture where you can enjoy their display. After all, anything that enhances your metal garden furniture has to be a good thing! Hybridized varieties will eventually revert to the pale murky colours of the original plant.
Opinion is divided as to whether you should cut back the large foliage in late autumn. True, the large leaves can mask the flowers but nature developed them as protection for the plant. I tend to chop mine back and the plants have always thrived. However, hellebores are hungry feeders so I treat mine with lots of home-made organic compost largely thanks to the hens.
There are lots of mentions of the dangers of leaving diseased leaves – if you have any with black markings these should be chucked away (as usual with diseased plant matter, don’t stick it on the compost heap).
The original Helleborus xhybridus – (otherwise known as Lenten rose) came from northern Greece and Turkey, growing in shady places in the mountains. The wild plants are single-flowered and of a limited colour palette. They do however, hybridize easily and now come in a myriad of colours and shapes from acid green, through pinks and peaches to almost blackly purple. The huge variety available today is due to the British plant enthusiasts who started breeding them in the 1960s.
Note to self – new hellebores can be pot bound and if you can’t free the roots when planting, you are advised to break them so that they can penetrate the ground.